President’s Message: Changes are Coming

Changes are coming. We just need to figure out what is in the best interest of you as mountain bikers, for our members, for CORBA, and finally for IMBA.

Since the abrupt loss of Suburu as a sponsor of several of its core programs last year, IMBA, our parent (and child!) organization, has had to undergo some major cutbacks. The Trail Care Crew and other programs are on indefinite hold. Staff layoffs and the resignation of Executive Director Mike Van Abel set IMBA on a much-needed transformation.

The IMBA Chapter program, which CORBA joined in 2011, was a key factor in IMBA’s recent growth. Much of the funding for the Chapter program came from Suburu, including travel expenses incurred by the Regional Director. One of the main functions of the RD was to liaise with and help coordinate all the chapters in a territory. In our case, the region is California and Hawaii.

In return, IMBA receives 60% of your membership dues and CORBA receives 40%. The basic membership is $35, with options at $50, $100 and higher that include swag. IMBA handles everything regarding membership management. The time and energy we would otherwise spend on membership management we can devote to advocacy and trailwork.  IMBA has supported us in Washington DC while we worked locally with members of Congress to prevent trail closures due to wilderness legislation. We’ve had access to IMBA expertise including the Trail Care Crew and Trail Solutions crew.  We also increased our membership numbers by about 40% when we became a chapter.

Recent IMBA messaging, however, has not been taken well by a portion of our members. Some have quit their membership and chosen to donate money directly to CORBA (which we welcome, regardless of membership).

IMBA recently chose Chairman of the Board Dave Weins as its new Executive Director. He’s widely respected and well-known. He ran a chapter himself. The ED is at the service of the IMBA Board of Directors, so we don’t expect any immediate changes in IMBA policy or messaging.

Overall, we’ve had a productive, fruitful and mutually beneficial relationship with IMBA. However, it’s been quite expensive at 60% of membership dues and is unsustainable without Suburu’s sponsorship.

Proposed changes to the program to make it sustainable are to increase the base membership price to about $50. About 40% of our members are now at the $35 level. Understanding people’s financial constraints, we expect to lose some members if the membership price is raised.

In the 1990s IMBA’s mantra was to give 20-20-20. $20 for IMBA, $20 for your local organization, and twenty hours of volunteer trailwork. Considering inflation, that’s not much different to the proposed changes: local and national advocacy group memberships for $50.

Hopefully most of you see the immense value in our programs: keeping trails open, restoring trails after disasters, advocating for mountain bikers to land managers and organizations around Southern California. We have bike parks completed and operating, and are working to bring more to the area. Without CORBA’s 30 years of advocacy, your local riding options might be much more limited.

Other proposed changes include the development of a Regional Leadership Council in which all SoCal chapters could meet among ourselves and coordinate efforts. We’d also get a new nationwide insurance plan which is hopefully less expensive than our current policies. We’d have access to experts in various fields by email or voice. It’s a streamlined and more efficient program. The question is whether it’s worth the 60% share of membership dues IMBA takes.

San Diego Mountain Bike Association and others in California are considering whether to stay in IMBA’s chapter program or go it alone. CORBA must make also this decision in the near future. There is much value to CORBA’s relationship with IMBA, but there’s also great value in a California-focused organization as proposed by San Diego Mountain Bike Association. At more than double CORBA’s membership, SDMBA could easily thrive as an IMBA Associate Club, rather than a chapter.

The departure of any chapter would reduce the number of IMBA members nationwide. A departing chapter might lose some members too. Some members may subsequently choose to join both the local organization and IMBA at the national level, as things were before the chapter program. It’s doubtful all current members would join both under those circumstances.

However, significantly weakening IMBA will ultimately hurt us all. IMBA remains dedicated to improving mountain biking for everyone. STC, which most of our members also support, has a much more narrowly focused mission that affects California more than most other states. IMBA’s efforts are having a positive impact nationally and local, but the local impacts are more difficult to quantify. The soon-to-be-released “Guidelines for a Quality Trail Experience” developed in partnership with the BLM, is a great example. Aimed squarely at Land Managers, this extensive new reference will be key to helping land managers understand our needs and desires. It will help guide the development of more bike-specific trails to meet a growing need. We can’t wait to supply a copy to our local Land Managers as we advocate for quality trail experiences locally. Resources like this help us all.

IMBA has taken feedback from its chapters on the proposed chapter program changes through a series of conference calls and surveys. They’re tweaking it based on the feedback and we’re waiting for the final version. When that comes, we’ll have a decision to make. But we’re interested in hearing from our members, and from those who aren’t members. (Why not?)

Most of you already join at the $50 level and higher (and we appreciate your support!). How many who now pay $35 can’t or won’t want to join us for $50?

How many of you feel strongly either way about our association with IMBA?  Would you join both organizations separately if we parted ways, or just one or the other?

We may send out a survey in the near future asking these and other questions, but feel free to email or comment to share your views.

In the meantime, it’s business as usual for CORBA. We’re busy with trailwork, advocacy, bike parks, fundraising, education and mountain bike advocacy. We’re improving relationships with Land Managers and looking for new opportunities. We’re in it for the long run and need your continued support.

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